Crawford County Avalanche: Township will host meeting regarding hydraulic fracturing

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By Dan Sanderson, Staff Writer – Crawford County Avalanche

April 30, 2014

Grayling Charter Township is hosting an informational presentation regarding Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing, more commonly known as fracking for oil and gas, for area citizens.

A organization called FLOW, For Love of Water, will make a presentation called  Horizontal Fracking for Oil & Gas in Michigan:  Legal Strategies & Tools for Local Communities. The presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 13 at the Grayling Charter Township Hall.

“We as township officials are educating ourselves and researching possible zoning and ordinances that could be adopted to help regulate ancillary activity associated with oil and gas exploration and production in our area,” said Grayling Charter Township Supervisor Rick Harland. “This will be a great opportunity to get a good overview of what goes on and a chance to ask questions.”

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling into geologic formation ranges between 5,000 to 10,000 feet deep, compared to more common oil and gas well that are 600 to 2,000 feet deep. High volume hydraulic fracturing involves the use of more than 100,000 gallons or water. In addition, materials such as sand and chemicals are used to prop open the artificially created or enhanced fractures to extract the oil and gas from the deeper formations.

FLOW is a Great Lakes water policy and  education center, dedicated to advancing public polices to protect the Great Lakes for current and future generations.

According to FLOW, the natural gas and oil industry is largely exempt from key federal environmental laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

“We all need gas and oil to continue a life style we have become accustom to,” Harland said. “Having said that, it is equally important to protect and preserve our precious rivers, lakes and other sources of fresh water. We believe that we can protect our valuable resources at the same time explore for oil and gas, through regulation and cooperation.”Therefore, states are primarily responsible for regulating activities.

Rick Henderson, field operations section supervisor for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Office of Oil, Gas and Minerals, said the state updated its regulations to address hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas exploration, development and production in 2011.  More rules were proposed in late 2013 and are currently under consideration.

Henderson said that hydraulic fracturing was first used for oil and gas exploration in the State of Michigan in 1952. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Henderson added that 12,000 wells were drilled using hydraulic fracturing in the Otsego County-region.  Those wells were shallower and did not involve a high volume  of water usage, but had no negative impact on the environment or public health and safety.

“It’s our goal to protect the resources of the state and public’s health and safety – that’s our number one goal and focus,” Henderson said.

FLOW educates township officials on ordinances they can adopt to regulate related oil and gas activities such as natural gas pipelines, flow lines, gathering lines, treatment or production facilities, compressors and water and chemical mixing stations. In addition, townships can adopt ordinances regulating emission releases, high truck traffic and  transportation issues, land impact, odors, noise, the handling reuse and disposal of wastewater and hazardous solid materials or liquids.

Harland encouraged residents from throughout the area to attend the meeting.

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